Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Shopping (03/01/07)
TITLE: Felicity's wonderful world
By Helen Paynter
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The sun was shining and the world was a wonderful place.
Felicity smiled at herself in the plate glass window of the shop. Her reflection, all Calvin Klein and Gucci, smiled back. And why shouldn’t she smile? She was young, beautiful, and Daddy had lent her his credit card.
Turning into a clothing store, she began to examine the silk blouses, fingering the fabric with her lip curled, just as Mummy had taught her.
Jayani yawned and stretched. It had been a long shift, and she was looking forward to getting out. She couldn’t tell the time, but she was listening for the buzzer that would signal her freedom.
Her supervisor walked over, frowning. ‘This work is below standard, Jayani. Look at these seams!’
Jayani flushed. ‘I’m very sorry, Mrs Bassa. The baby was sick last night, and I had to help Mother take care of him. I’ll try harder tomorrow.’
Her superior shook her head, her lips pinched. ‘No you won’t, young lady. You’ll do them again before you leave. Here!’ She dumped twenty silk blouses onto Jayani’s table and hurried away.
With a sigh, Jayani took the top blouse from the pile. Screwing up her eyes in the fading light, she began to unpick the tiny stitches.
It would be another four hours before the twelve-year old made her way home.
Swinging her bag lightly from one finger, Felicity bounced onwards to the next store. She wanted to buy some jeans. Low waist, boot cut, understated but elegant. She knew just the place.
Kayin had finished work for the day. He stretched out his long legs and took thirsty gulps of the drink his wife had offered. In the evening shade, he sat outside his hut and gazed in sleepy contentment at his cotton crop. For three days he had paced up and down every row, spraying the budding plants with the magic pesticide. He didn’t know what it was, but it certainly worked. He’d watched earthworms shrivel and die before his eyes.
A sudden commotion. Two of his children tottered around the corner, carrying something between them. A cold hand grabbed Kayin’s stomach and squeezed.
‘Adisa, Folami. What is it?’
‘It’s Oni, Father. We were playing in the shed. Where you keep the barrels.’
‘We don’t know how it happened.’ Their naiveté was so evident in their voices: as yet they feared only a rebuke.
‘She fell into the barrel, Father. The one that was half-full.’
For every hour of the next two days, Kayin knelt beside the toddler’s bed and prayed for her to die.
Felicity had several parcels now, and she was reaching the limit of her tolerance. ‘Shop ‘til you drop’ was an over-rated idea, she thought. After all, there’s always tomorrow. Just one more thing, then home for a long hot bath. But first, she needed cocoa butter skin cream – Mummy’s beauty secret.
Kwame leaned down and gently disengaged his daughter’s clinging fingers. ‘I have to go now, Efia.’
The little girl looked up with sulky eyes. ‘I don’t want you to go, Daddy. I want you to stay here with Mummy and me.’
Kwame looked down at her, and across at his wife. Her grave eyes gazed back. She didn’t understand either. Didn’t or wouldn’t.
But how could he explain to them? The evidence was clear in their eyes – a good crop this year; the plants heavy with cocoa beans. How could he explain that he would be selling them at a loss? He understood little enough about it himself. All he knew was The Company had cut the prices again. All his wife knew was that her husband was leaving her with a child and another on the way.
‘It’s only for a while,’ he tried to reason. ‘I’ll go and try my luck in the city; send some money home. And Yoofi will look after you.’ He ignored the frisson of fear that tickled his spine as he said this. His brother would never harm them. Never.
‘Come on, cheer up. When I come back I’ll bring you a present.’ He grinned emptily; kissed his wife once more; ruffled Efia’s hair and turned away. With luck he’d catch a lift when he got to the main road.
When he returned a year later, he gave his wife AIDS.
Felicity stowed her bags carefully in the back of her sports car and spun homeward. The sun was shining, and the world was a wonderful place.
An estimated 246 million children are engaged in child labour worldwide.
There are several thousand fatalities from pesticide poisoning every year. Children are disproportionately affected. Most poisonings occur in the developing world.
The large cocoa companies use their size and influence to drive down the purchase price of cocoa from the producers.
Poverty drives workers from their homes in pursuit of work; separating them from their families and putting them at risk of casual sexual encounters and infection with the HIV virus
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